1 of 2 | The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new regulations to limit the amount of pollutants released by coal-fired power plants. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
March 8 (UPI) -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday proposed a new rule to reduce the number of pollutants released from coal power plants by 580 million pounds per year, according to the EPA.
The new regulations take aim at three distinct kinds of wastewater discharged from coal-fired plants, flue gas desulfurization wastewater, bottom ash transport water, and combustible residual leachate.
The agency said that coal-fired plants discharge "large volumes of wastewater" which can include pollutants such as selenium, mercury, arsenic, nickel, bromide, chloride, and iodide, nutrient pollution, and total dissolved solids.
Those pollutants can then make their way into ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and other waterways and can harm humans and ecosystems " through contamination of drinking water sources, recreational waters, and aquatic life."
Under the proposed new regulations, flue gas desulfurization wastewater, bottom ash transport water, and combustible residual leachate would be defined as "legacy" wastewaters, and the EPA would examine more strict regulation of their discharge.
"Ensuring the health and safety of all people is EPA's top priority, and this proposed rule represents an ambitious step toward protecting communities from harmful pollution while providing greater certainty for industry," said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
Since President Joe Biden took office in 2021, the EPA has targeted wastewater emissions from coal plants.
Last January, the agency began enforcing a 2015 regulation requiring coal-fired power plants to clean up coal ash waste which required approximately 500 unlined coal ash surface impoundments nationwide to stop receiving waste and begin closing.
Recently a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, has sparked fears of pollutants leaking into waterways in the area.
The EPA last week ordered Norfolk Southern, the company that operated the train, to conduct immediate cleanup operations at the site.